By Sylvia Volk
"I beg your pardon, my love?"
"I mean, what is this place?" Wiggy looked about her, disgusted and appalled. As a trio of disreputable (and vaguely nonhuman) characters clad in greasy baker's smocks pushed past, she drew back fastidiously and whisked her skirts away from contamination. "I mean--it is a slum, isn't it? What do we want with a slum? Mother wouldn't like me being about such low people, I'm sure she wouldn't-- Is there some shop you want to visit? Or are we meeting someone?"
"You're babbling, Wiggy."
"Yes, sir." She hung her head, abashed. Then she popped up again: "But it's so filthy here! I don't like it at all. And I'm sure there are--oh, fences, and pickpockets, and women no better than they ought to be, and--and--and--I could pick up lice from these people!"
They climbed a stair and entered a low lodging-room, still below street level. On benches arrayed around a roaring fire, vagrants lay snoring, their hats tipped over their faces. They stank. Everything stank. Wiggy held her nose. A slattern of a woman materialized to block the way, thrusting out her hand and saying aggressively, "I charge tuppence nightly if you want to dab down here in the kitchen, but if you need a private room for you and your dollymop then it's crown and a half the week--"
"Make way, my good--er--creature." Lupine fended her off with his walking-cane. She flicked a forked tongue at him and retreated. Wiggy goggled after her.
"Mr. Lupine--that woman--isn't human!"
"No, she's a Dilys demon. This way, child."
They made their way into a courtyard between slum dwellings, a place so crowded with costers' barrows, chicken-coops and latrines that there was scarcely room to walk. Beyond this, an equally narrow tunnel admitted onto an alley, at the end of which--turning a corner--Wiggy and Lupine found themselves on the public street. It was about an hour after sunset. Electric advertisements floated overhead like angelic pronouncements. The crowds pushing past were bound for the theater, from their dress and conversation, and then late supper or else a few hours' drinking in some public house. In this part of London, the streets never slept.
"Follow me, my dear. I suppose it's natural for you to be curious: it's in your blood. After all, your mother was a potential Slayer, like her mother, and her mother and grandmother before them." Wiggy nodded; her mother had indeed been a Slayer in training, one who (like so many other potential Slayers) had eventually married a Watcher and settled down to perpetuate the Chosen bloodlines. Wiggy's own original Watcher had been her paternal uncle. True, he had vanished from Wiggy's life, making way for dear Mr. Lupine to take her in hand . . . but potentials married Watchers, and Watchers fathered potentials, and so forth, and so forth. Wiggy frowned momentarily. What had become of Uncle, anyway? She couldn't quite recall the details-- But never mind. The important thing was, Mr. Lupine was her Watcher now, and they would be married eventually. And she loved him very much. That was all that mattered.
She looked fondly at Mr. Lupine.
"These are two quite dreadful monsters, this Spike and his Drusilla." Mr. Lupine drew Wiggy's hand through his arm, pressed it affectionately. "The two we met in the taproom of the George. You saw the chaos they caused there. They're both vampires, Wiggy. Outcast, cannibalistic, evil things that were once just like us."
"I thought he was very handsome." Wiggy spoke in a small voice. "I . . . dreamed about him last night."
"Mist," said Lupine, lifting a finger, and watched her eyes cloud over with confusion. "That's better . . . Mustn't let yourself be tempted, dear child. As I was saying, the vampire Spike was wreaking havoc at the George. It was my duty to stop him. We fought. Eventually I proved myself the stronger, which cost him the use of his arm. And we should have been rejoicing over his defeat, except that his accursed paramour came to avenge him."
"But eventually, I shall track them down, and finish things off. The vampiress shall die, and her companion too. Beheading is the best way to dispose of such monsters. But before then, I hope they'll lead us to the real prize--the demon that killed the Slayer."
"Why do we want that?"
"Why do we want to find the demon? That seems to me quite reckless. Shouldn't we pay a call at the Watcher chapterhouse, recruit reinforcements--just the two of us against the beast would surely be suicide--and I don't quite see what good it does to confront such a thing anyway--" She wrenched her hand out of his grip, faced him. "In fact, it's unwise. What do we have to gain? I say we should--"
His eyes were pits of black, and he was speaking in that strange language, weaving a fog in her mind and heart . . . Wiggy's gaze fell submissively. Lupine finished, drew a deep breath, and inquired, "Do you love me?"
"Oh yes, oh yes, dear Mr. Lupine!"
He patted her. "You may call me Arturus, you know."
"Arturus," said Wiggy, blushing.
They resumed walking along the street. "I suppose," he said, "you deserve to know my motives. You know that the other Watchers schemed against me. Wouldn't allow me a Slayer of my own-- But no matter. Because once we find the monster, they'll see their error. I'll be able to use the demon as a source for my magic, just as I use you now." She nodded. "Because the power of the Slayers runs in you, child. And the power of a beast strong enough to devour a Slayer . . . well, what couldn't I accomplish, fueled by that?"
They had reached their destination: a modest shop off New Oxford Street, whose awning proclaimed MAPS AND ANTIQUARIES in fading gilt letters. He ushered her through the door, and a bell rang in the dim recesses of the shop.
Came a plump and pallid creature to the call of the bell; it looked to a horrified Wiggy like a gigantic white rat walking upright, hairless and moistly pink, simpering. It wore suspenders. It wrung its hands as it sidled up to Lupine, who grinned (showing all his long teeth) at it, and tipped his hat politely. "Good day. You carry maps of London?"
It had ruby eyes. "Yiss sir. Many map, sir, every kind."
"Have you Colsoni's Le Guide de Londres?" The proprietor shook his head. Lupine went on, "Well then, a copy of the Queen Mary Tudor map? No? Perhaps a reprint of Braun and Hogenberg--no? Hm. Hollar's panorama of 1674?" More frantic head-shaking. Lupine was becoming testy: "London Vanished and Vanishing? How about Dr. Dee's Sum Troy Sub Londinium? Or else the Duchess de Richenburg's book The Londinomicrom--?"
The ratlike proprietor was shaking like a leaf.
"Well, if you have none of these things, what good are you to me? No, no, I jest. Fetch me a bowl of water, and a bottle of ink. Then go back to your dusting or whatever else you were doing. The lady and I require privacy." And when he had these things, Lupine beckoned a wondering Wiggy and said, "Pour the ink into the water, my dear. Now, clear your mind. And look into the bowl."
He leaned closer and said conversationally, "Men have sometimes seen two such things--huge, vague borderers--walking the moors, spirits from elsewhere; so far as any might clearly see, one of them walked in the shape of a woman. The other, misshapen, stalked marshy wastes, in the tracks of an exile, except that he was larger than any other man . . . Da com of more, under mist-hleoþum, Grendel gongan, Godes yrre bær." His hand closed on the back of Wiggy's neck. Something like a galvanic shock shot through her; she stiffened all over, and Lupine said in her ear: "Draugr. Ketta. Find out where they are."
She saw them, in the window of the swirling ink, the two vampires on the loose in the oblivious West End. The woman, twig-thin and fey, with a lunatic gleam to her sudden smile; the young man always by her side, hollow-cheeked, a scar marring one eyebrow. He had a street tough's swagger, the prowl of an alley-cat--the tom alongside the queen. But his left arm hung uselessly limp. Wiggy knew, somehow, that they were quarreling--violently at odds--but still, between angry comments, the young man stared at his lady, seeming dazed in blind adoration at everything she did. And she preened in his attention, seeming to bloom like a night-flower.
What was that around them? They were in a court or some sort of alley, a street market from the look of it. Wiggy's attention was snagged by a fragment of electric advertisement seen between buildings, high above where the vampires walked--there and gone again, gleams upon the inky water. But she couldn't quite make out the words. Around Spike and Dru, other people came and went, dreamlike silhouettes--lurching past them, staggering, shambling, swaying. Something was dreadfully wrong about their gait. Many of them reeled like drunkards, and perhaps that was all it was, but-- Yes, there were couples dancing drunkenly, bottles lifted and upended, toasts clearly proposed to wild applause. And--Wiggy bent forward suddenly, horrified--but the people were all wrong! They had horns. They had beaks, and the feet of great birds. Oh God, some had the heads of animals, and now she caught a clear glimpse of a street-hawker moving past with a tray slung round his wattled neck, and on the tray were his wares. Kittens. Clambering over each other, calico and tabby and black. The dearest little kittens.
She smiled involuntarily at the kittens.
"What do you see, my love?"
"It's a sort of marketplace or gin garden," Wiggy reported. "But they're all demons there. All of them. And there are people hawking little kittens in a very perplexing way."
"A kitten market," said Mr. Lupine's calm voice from somewhere very far away. "There are several in London. Do you see any kind of landmark?"
"Well, there's an electric sign. It says--oh, wait--Wilde and Wife? Something like that."
She couldn't have looked away even if ordered. All the people in the market were demons. And they were plainly celebrating, deep in their cups; it was a scene of low revelry, quite shocking, in fact. Kittens were being exchanged for bottles of liquor, or dickered over by money-changers. There were kittens everywhere, in fact--everyone seemed to be carrying one. Perhaps they served as a form of currency. It was nightmarish. A phantasmagoria. And, completely at home in their surreal cityscape, the two vampires had halted and were deep in conversation. With such monstrosities surrounding them! They looked like lost things in the horrific scene, angelic children gone astray: Spike tugged at Drusilla's beaded sleeve, and she looked back at him large-eyed, pale as the palest bisque, like the Bru doll from Paris Wiggy had owned as a child. Whatever taxed them so gravely, Wiggy couldn't hear. She could only watch.
She saw tusked monstrosities, things whose faces sagged as if melted, shambling heaps covered with moss or lichen. A trio of dwarves laboring to roll a vast white egg along. An ox-headed giant with a cleaver and blood-splattered apron, hacking unidentifiable carcasses apart at a booth thronged with customers. A Punch and Judy show whose puppets were tiny grimacing mannikins that scurried back and forth, kept from escaping by their leashes and collars.
Spike in the midst of this chaos was now circling a snarling opponent, one of the tusked things. Its yellow face was livid with tattoos. It was twice Spike's size, and the two of them ranged round each other, shoulders hunched, heads down, jockeying for an opening. Demons shoved for views of the match, and some of them were laying bets, exchanging kittens and pound notes. Spike leaped and was at the tusked horror's throat, and in the crowd behind him, Wiggy glimpsed Drusilla watching hungrily, licking her lips with a sharp pointed pink tongue.
Again she caught sight of the advertisement blazing down. Wilde Wife, like a testimonial.
Wiggy blinked. The scene changed. The fight--whatever its outcome--was clearly over. Drusilla and Spike were in an alley, high brick walls towering over them; inky shadows lay all about. He was shouting. She was shouting. At last he shoved her away from him, and she took to her heels. Spike was after her in an instant. He caught her, swung her about, drew her head to the hollow of his throat. Her face transformed. She fastened onto him and began to suck. Her hand came up to grip the front of his threadbare shirt, she burrowed avidly against him. And he leaned back against the wall in an attitude of abandonment--legs braced wide, back arched, cradling her head in the crook of his good arm.
"Dru, you've gone barmy."
They had been arguing for some time, but Spike had made no headway. Drusilla was adamant. Sometimes she went like that--hatched some nutty idea, and wouldn't be swayed. Caution meant nothing to her then. She might walk out rapturous into the noonday sun, or fling herself on a stake to see what happened next; no telling what she could do. And in the face of the strongest arguments Spike could muster, she would go on madly dancing away into cloud-cuckoo-land. It was the mention of dragons that had driven her daft this time.
"Oh, but Spike, I can see it so clearly." She had her hands clasped at her throat, her yearning face lifted. "We must find chains. Lovely thick clinking ones, Spike, all rusty. With heavy manacles . . . an iron ring, driven into a rock . . . a seaside cliff, with the sound of the tide . . . You'll chain me at the mouth of the dragon's lair, and lie in wait for battle when it appears!"
"Dru, love. Listen up. We are not going to chain you up for the dragon to eat."
"But I'm your princess! Aren't I your princess? Not anymore--oh, Spike, your poor Drusilla, you don't love her any longer and--and--"
"Of course I love you! That's why--"
"--I would have made such a beautiful sacrifice, but now it's ruined if you won't play--"
"--why I don't want you all eaten up, can't you see that!"
"--I was going to be just like Andromeda," Dru wailed.
They had found themselves one of the West End kitten markets, a thriving crossroads where all manner of demons mingled. A scene of roistering. Hellion demons and Fyarl and Zzashnokuchgarr were there, and some exotic demon breeds even Spike couldn't identify, and most of them dead drunk already. They were drinking to the Slayer's absence, safely hidden from human eyes. For Spike and Dru, this represented safety--so long as they didn't resent the cordial insults flung in their direction, "Filthy vampires," and "Dirty half-breed scum, surprised you show your faces," for every other kind of demon despised vampires.
The vamps hunting Spike and Drusilla would never show their faces here. As for human beings, the only signs of their presence were the foodstuffs for sale: pickled eyeballs, shoe-soles (a favorite Fyarl treat) and humanity's one contribution to civilization and gourmandry throughout the dimensions . . . baby pet animals. Puppies and newborn rabbits, budgies and canaries and the like, and kittens. Most especially, kittens.
Nothing raised pets so well as human beings. There were demon species powerful enough to wipe out the Earth without raising a sweat, and the only thing that restrained them was the thought of the kittens.
". . . sometimes the stars have a chat with the new moon, and I hear them say distinctly, 'Drusilla would look so fetching in several pieces' . . . yes, Spike?"
"Dru, you got to promise me something."
She perked to attention, forgetting the stars and the moon. "Yes, Spike."
"You got to promise," he said, shutting his eyes, feeling his way, "seeing the way my arm is now and there's no telling if it'll get better . . . you promise me, Dru, that if anything happens to me, you'll find yourself another man--"
"Another knight?" she said; though Spike didn't know it, she had picked something up from a coster's barrow and was regarding it, smiling, intent, distracted.
"Dru, listen. Don't mourn me." He had watched her mourning broken dolls, wilted flowers, dead birds in their cages; she would weep and wail and wring her hands for hours on end. "Or--or think about me at all. Just go on with your life. You'll need somebody to take care of you, do for you when the stars are talking or your cards get you going, can't look after yourself. So you find yourself another knight, turn him and let him make you happy. And never look back, all right?"
A loud rude voice interrupted. "'Ere, lydy! Half-pence fer the rose, if you please! An' don't think yer gonna put it back either, 'cause it's already ruint, nobody's going to want ter eat it now, I saw you pull those petals orf."
Drusilla was staring blankly at the blood-red rose she held, a scattering of ripped petals at her feet. "Oh," she said. "Spike, give him half-pence, please."
"Dru you know I don't have any money--!" hissed Spike, returned to cruel reality with a jolt.
She lifted the rose, still plucking petals idly. "I had to have it. See? It's the exact color of a little girl's screams."
"Such a lovely lady deserves many roses." An eight-foot-tall Hellion demon stooped over the barrow. It flicked its talons and a half-pence coin landed amidst the heaped blossoms there (most of which were far more outré than any rose). Then it straightened, picking meaningfully at its serrated teeth. It sneered. "All the roses she likes, eh? Shut up, scum." This last was directed at the flower-seller, a very small cowering demon. The Hellion considered the display of flowers, chose the largest and flashiest bouquet, and offered it to Drusilla.
Spike went for the Hellion. He sank his right fist in its midriff, with his whole weight behind the blow. An instant later the barrow was overturned, a ring of demon spectators was swiftly forming, and Spike and the Hellion were circling each other, growling. Spike glared up from under his eyebrows, bristled and made himself as large as he could. He stuffed his useless left hand into the front of his jacket. Drusilla, on the sidelines, was leaping up and down and clapping. "My gallant knight meets the giant at the bridge, and I must pin my favor on his shoulder--!"
The Hellion grinned, showing a vast expanse of stained yellow incisors. "After I bite off your head, vampire," it informed Spike, "your woman and I have a good, good time."
He lunged for its throat.
It was bludgeoning, eyeball-gouging, thumb-chopping action, the very finest of its kind and the best outlet for a little steam in Spike's viewpoint. Fast and furious, a mad scramble of fists and teeth. Both he and the Hellion had fangs: considerable natural armament. It was taloned too, and its skin was as rough as a shark's. And it had twice his weight. Still, Spike put up a good account for himself--till it got in a straight punch.
He shot backwards fifteen feet and crashed into a display of Siamese and Burmese kittens. Wickerwork cages were smashed open. Their mewing contents leaped to freedom. That, naturally, caused almost a riot as the kitten-merchant pounced after his wares, and demons on every side pounced too. Kittens vanished into pockets. Kittens dashed between legs. The kitten-merchant sat down in the wreckage of his ruined cages, and began to curse. Spike lay on his back, the world spinning about him, groggy.
A triumphant harsh purr drifted to his ears. ". . . out like a Sleeper. Vampires! Mongrels. No staying power to them. Half London's vampire crew is still cowering underground, scared a new Slayer's about to appear any moment."
Drusilla's voice said something.
The Hellion snorted thunderously. "Hah! No new Slayer. No more Slayers, never. Got to have your ear to the ground, get the real news. There won't be no more Slayers. And without them--" Another thunderous snort of disdain. Then in a softer voice: "What we see, what we want, is ours."
Spike opened his eyes and there was Drusilla, just melting deliciously into the Hellion's arms.
He sprang across the intervening distance. He landed on the Hellion's back, legs round its waist, good arm round its forehead, yanking its head back by main force as he snapped his jaws shut on its throat. The Hellion roared. It dropped Drusilla. It staggered backward, clawing at Spike on its back. Spike ripped and tore and chewed, jaws never stopping their action, sprays of fine blood jetting into his eyes. Then he dropped off the Hellion as it crumpled. The Hellion hit the ground. The earth shook.
Spike smeared at his eyes with the back of his right hand, wiping away Hellion blood. Then he raised his bloody jaws to the night and howled.
"Come on, Drusilla. We're leaving."
He caught her by the wrist, dragged her in his wake. On the far side of the kitten market, she broke free. They were in an alley; electric advertisements shone down from several streets over, brighter than Dru's guardian stars. The signs were brand-new and glitzy, the very latest thing no doubt--though Spike preferred the London of his youth, unmarred by such things. He remembered when the gaslights had been replaced by electric, and the whole night-time aspect of the city had been transformed. But that was progress, wasn't it?
That was London all over for you. Walk three streets one way, and you were in human demesnes: respectable shops, theatres, grand hotels. But three streets the other . . . Just behind the tarted-up facade of West London was a whole different world. Cars and carriages never penetrated these narrow lanes. Tourists who went astray often failed to return. All was crazy with age and the poverty of the spirit: posh on the outside, but once you explored . . . a demonic slum, and at its core was the seething darkness of Hell. So it was with Drusilla. On the outside, lovely and ageless and elegant. Smack on the nines with the very latest fashion. Always young. But what was within--ah, that was a dark queen indeed, Faust's Beatrice, wicked Helen, a Clytemnestra with red-splattered fingers.
She faced him, swaying, her eyes vast and starry. "Mustn't blame me, Spike. I have to do as my blood bids." Her lips parted. The tip of her tongue darted out suddenly. "Are you very angry at Princess?"
"For God's sake, Dru--"
"How dare you!" Her slap sent him reeling; he hadn't seen it coming. Spike knocked the back of his head against the wall, and his vision momentarily went black. "You never got me my Crawler," she screamed, launching herself at him. "You promised me a fine Crawler, Spike!"
They were in each others' faces, shouting. "How the hell am I to fetch you a Crawler when every time I look away, you're off with some other bloke! I'm not your bloody dog, that you can make me sit and roll over and fetch--"
"You're not Daddy either." Dru spat it out.
"So I can't tell you what to do?! News for you, Dru. Angelus left us. So get out of his shadow, 'cause now you're with me, and I'm--"
"My boy." Her eyes were as huge as the whole night, pits for Spike to fall into. "His shadow is always over us." She hissed out: "My boy is a very bad boy."
Spike shoved her away from him. For an instant she stood poised. Then she ran. Spike stared after her. And gave chase.
He caught her at the mouth of the alley, reeled her in. She was struggling, fighting. "I'm yours," said Spike, throwing back his head to bare his throat to her. "Yours, Dru. And you're mine." Her face transformed. She was on him, fangs buried in his neck, and the pain burned through him clean and fine. Burn him to ashes. While she drank, making little senseless noises, till only the grip of her hands held him upright and all the world shrank to the things she said between thirsty gulps of his blood.
"You're my dolly. Aren't you, Spike?"
"And do you love Mother?"
"Oh God yes."
"Daddy left me. But you will never leave, will you?"
"Yes--yes--don't stop, love. Never let go."
While the harsh electric light shone down from overhead: Wilde, Wife & Son.
It went on for a seemingly endless time, as it always did. When it ebbed, Spike sagged back against the rough brick wall, his feet sliding a little in the filth of the alley. He felt as if he was drifting, hallucinatory from blood loss as if from the finest morphine. A sensation of exquisite clarity and pleasure. She had been in his mind too, moving through it like coiling smoke, changing things to suit herself. And now she drew back, bent her dark head, and kissed the bloodied ends of his scarf, with which she had wiped her mouth. Then she tucked his scarf in, and straightened his cap. "My good boy," she said.
". . . stearcheort onfand feondes fotlast," said Lupine, strolling round the corner and finding them. Wiggy was by his side. He smiled. "Ah, there you are at last."
Spike, addled as he was, reacted at once. He put himself between Lupine and Drusilla, and as for Dru, she slithered round swiftly behind Spike, clutching at him and peering narrow-eyed over his shoulder. "It's the sorcerer," she spat, nails digging into Spike's arms. "And his horrid little girl. We must eat them, Spike, before they eat us--"
"Just watch me, sweetheart."
"Now, now, none of that." Lupine was in a high good humor. He pointed with his cane, spoke: "No ðær aht cwices, leð lyft-floga, læfan wolde--"
A wall of fire flared up between them, spitting smoke and sparks.
"Get away from us!" yelled Spike. "We don't have anything you want."
"Oh, but you do. You remember that I charged you with a task. And I shall look unkindly on any dereliction on your part, so no more slacking. Have you discovered the Slayer's nemesis yet?"
"We're just vampires," said Spike, "terrible low creatures, no one ever talks to us, how would we know? Besides we've been chased all over the city since yesterday. Don't have so much as a bleeding hole to lay our heads."
"I warned you about loose talk in front of my ward," Lupine cautioned.
"What, you going to wash my mouth out with soap?"
"I can do worse," said the sorcerer. "Well, Drusilla? Do you want to watch your lover die?"
Spike, bristling, advanced toward the barrier of fire. Cinders alighted on his clothing and burned there, leaving tiny scorched marks; he shook them off. It should be possible to hurdle the flames, if he pulled his coat over his head and moved fast enough-- He was in game face, drawing deep on his demon. A growl rasped in his throat. He was about to die, he knew; but if he could take down the sorcerer first--
For Drusilla. It would be worth it.
"Spike, back," said Drusilla abruptly. She touched his arm, and he halted. "It was a dragon," she said to Lupine. "Deep in the Hellmouth. I know what you want to do with it."
"Dark intoxicating sorceries," Drusilla half-sang. "I know. But you shan't wake the beauty, the thorns will spit your heart and eyes, your pretty warrior won't be able to save you then--old wolf, old bear, in the poacher's trap, bee on a pin, on cotton-wool--forever and ever--"
"Oi, Dru!" Spike pulled her back. "Get away from that fire!"
"It doesn't matter." Lupine too stepped back, shook his head hard as if to clear it. The fire died then, guttering out as swiftly as it had appeared. "You've told me what I want to know. And your usefulness to me is done." He began to speak the first words of a spell, then reconsidered. "Nor need I put myself out to dispose of you, I think. For I hear some friends of yours coming."
It was vampires. They spilled round the corner, spotted Spike and Dru, and stopped dead. Licking their lips. "Looky looky, it's the foreigners, found 'em at last, their bad luck!" As for Lupine and Wiggy, the vampires did not appear to see them at all. Lupine was just finishing sketching a figure on the air with the point of his cane; he gathered Wiggy to him with a glance, retreated with her in tow. Spike and Drusilla were left on their own, with almost twenty vampires swiftly advancing.
They were east of Seven Dials, Spike could feel it in his bones; the Hellmouth was a lodestone, and his demon a compass-needle. He was getting his bearings now. No grand thoroughfares cleft this district, not closer than New Oxford (where, though he didn't know it, the sign Wilde, Wife & Son shone within sight of the door of an antiquarian map-shop). He and Dru pelted down narrow streets that turned and jinked like worm-tracks, and Spike knew them all by heart of old--years away from London or not--Little Earl Street, Macklin Street, Great Wild Street and the maze of tiny roads round old Clare Market. Pitch-black lanes overshadowed by the cliffs of common lodging-houses, but nowadays the lights shining down from many windows were eldritch blue, and the folk who slunk out of the way as Spike and Dru ran past, were demons every one.
It was the Hellmouth. With the Slayer gone, the Hellmouth had surely upwelled and loosed this surge of demonic colonization through St. Giles. All human beings would have either perished, or been driven forth before the torrent. Now most of St. Giles had gone under to new habitants, and the tide would be creeping out in all directions, soon to overwhelm all London beyond reclamation . . .
Demon London. It could happen so fast.
A fog was rolling in between the lodging-houses. It mounted, thick and smoke-brown and languid, like the demon tide from the Hellmouth made palpable. A real pea-souper, a London particular fog. Within moments, the lanes of St. Giles became claustrophobic tunnels. It muffled sound, hung heavy as a shroud and would even confuse vampire-noses on the trail. Spike slowed down, turned yet another corner, dropped to a walk and patted Dru's arm reassuringly. "We've given them the slip," he said.
There was a road with streetlights ahead; they glowed yellow and dim as torch-flames through beer-bottle glass. The painted walls of London's Victorian buildings took on their true aspect in this light, which made what had been gaudy mellow, and what had been strident as soft as watercolor. You could scarcely see the other side of the street.
"And look where I'm brought you, pet," Spike concluded, strutting.
"Darling William, you're a genius! All the way to the old workhouse!"
No demons here; they had escaped the Hellmouth's sphere of influence. Human poverty surrounded them. Humans sheltered in every doorway along the street, homeless folk clutching blankets about them--in some instances, entire families huddled together. Most were sleeping, though one or two roused enough to watch without comprehension as the two vampires stalked past. Spike looked fondly on them, all so helpless, massed like flies. Drusilla's favorite dish, weren't they?
And there. Dru darted past him, pounced. "My Crawler!" she crowed.
"Eat well, baby," said Spike, and stood back to roll a cigarette.
After a moment he looked around again. "Er--Dru, you were going to eat her, weren't you?" he inquired.
Drusilla crouched over the Crawler, who was a tiny heap of knitted lace and mob-cap, cotton-gloved hands like bird-claws and an empty tea-cup still clutched in one. Other Crawlers slept within touching distance, oblivious. But Dru wasn't drinking. She had dragged the Crawler up and shaken her into a semblance of wakefulness, and was now staring intently into her face. "Be in me," she crooned. "Be with me. Come into me . . . come . . ." Even for a human as weak as Crawlers were, this one was somnolent. Spike's interest was piqued. He bent closer, sniffed, and recoiled.
"Magic?" he said.
Magic sleep. The Crawler's eyes were half-open, but it was a sleepwalker's trance. No consciousness lay behind it. Winkled lips parted and a thread of a voice emerged. ". . . who asks a question of the Sleepers . . . ?"
"I ask," Drusilla said. "What are you?"
". . . London is ours now . . ." A faint titter escaped the sleeping human. "Little vampire."
"You're a Sleeper?"
". . . they all sleep . . . sleep like the grave . . . never wake up . . . soon all humans will be ours. Mine. Sleepers."
Drusilla struck and bit. The Crawler convulsed, beat feebly at the air with her bird-claw hands, and then sagged again--wakened at last, but only by the moment of death.
Dru dropped her, straightened and dusted off her fingertips. To Spike she said, "You must drink too, William. You'll need to keep your strength up, if you're to be fighting the dragon."
He looked up sharply. "What? That sorcerer will be doing that."
"No, he'll be searching for a way into the Hellmouth. Because all he knows--"
"--is what did for the Slayer," Spike swept in, suddenly excited.
"And we know," said Dru modestly.
"What do we know?"
"We know the way to its lair," Drusilla said. "I saw it in the Crawler's mind. I knew we had to have a Crawler, I knew it." She patted Spike's cheek. "So you could have a dragon, my dear." She glanced at the sky, through fog. "Tomorrow, at midnight, that is the time. And now it's dawn. We should get--"
"Under cover? Why bother?" He tossed down his cigarette-stub, ground it out under his heel. "London fog. It's like a homecoming, love. And what better way for the likes of us to stay safe till tomorrow night, than aboveground? Nobody's going to be hunting us in daylight."
"Oh, Spike! You're too good to me. Shall we play at being tourists?"
He held out his right hand, let her rest hers in it, bowed genteelly and spun her. In the thick London fog, they began to waltz.
"Walk about London--"
"--dance with daylight--"
"--flirt with death and danger--"
"--so long as the fog persists. How long is that, sibyl?"
"For hours and hours," she said, glowing.
"But mind you," Spike added, "we're still not feeding you to the thing, alright?"
The fog stayed till evening. Drusilla and Spike ended up in the Green Park, off Piccadilly. They watched the sheep graze, walked among the trees. Vagabonds and ne'er-do-wells slept in the Sheep Pen, as they had since before either Spike or Dru were born--stretched out on the grass, with newspapers over their faces. In the end, Spike slept in Dru's arms in the Green Park, under a bush all day long, courting spontaneous combustion; Spike didn't care. For London fog was his natural habitat, after all.
Continued in Part Four